After a while of Martial Art Training you will most likely reach a plateau in your development which will lead to frustration and may even cause you to quit. The human body is a marvellous machine that adapts to stimuli. Your training is stimuli so if it has become stale and repetitive your body will cease to improve as it has adapted as far as your training will allow.
As with all other athletic training, martial art training needs to include exercises that develop all the elements required for competition. In martial arts the ‘competition’ is either the application of technique on the street or in the ring. Let’s take a look at all of these elements:
Coordination – The ability to form techniques accurately with all associated muscles in the correct state of motion throughout the technique. This is most applicable when learning a new move or addressing bad habits. Work closely with your instructor or a partner to ensure you are performing the movements correctly. Perform new actions slowly at first and gradually build up the speed and power you apply to a technique. Coordination should be developed straight after a warm up and stopped when you tire and just before you start to perform the actions incorrectly due to fatigue.
Speed and speed-strength – This includes reaction time (reflexes) and the ability to perform techniques with maximal force in the shortest possible time. Bag work is one of the most effective ways to increase speed and speed-strength. Count the number of reps you can do within 30 seconds and then try to beat that number after a rest of 30 seconds to a minute. Don’t over do it though, if you find the number begins to drop or you feel fatigued stop as you want to save the fastest movement in your ‘muscle memory’. General strength and plyometric exercises will also help with speed and explosive power. Speed exercises should be done during the first part a workout after an adequate warm up.
Agility – This is a more general form of speed and involves being able to move the whole body in different directions as quickly as possible. Exercises to improve agility include things like reaching down to touch the ground while jogging in a circle. Anything that has a rapid change of direction.
Strength – A measure of the ability of a given muscle to overcome an outside force. In other words how much you can lift or push. Standard weight lifting exercises will build muscle adequately, consult a qualified personal trainer to set up your own program of muscle building.
Endurance – How long you can continue to work through and exercise for. This should be low intensity cardiovascular work, such as light jogging, and basically just keep going until you can’t any longer! Make a note of how long you went for and then try to beat it the next time you work on endurance.
Flexibility – The ability to be able to move all your limbs and joints through their full range of motion. Dynamic stretches should be done once during your warm up and once more later or earlier in the day (depending on when your workout is). Isometric stretches should be done a maximum of 4 times a week during the cool down phase of a workout and relaxed stretches at the very end of a workout.
Keep it varied. Obviously this can’t be controlled in class, although if your classes are not varied enough you aren’t getting what you paid for so you might want to think about finding a new club. In your training at home or the gym, be sure to have a workout plan for the individual workout along with targets for the week, month and year. You should completely change around the order of your workouts and exercises within those workouts every four to six weeks to avoid a plateaux.
I hope this has introduced you to a few more training techniques and improves your overall martial arts abilities.